California Laws 2016 -Prosecutorial misconduct (withholding evidence)

Rabin Nabizadeh
March 25, 2016

The California state legislature enacted 807 new laws during the 2015 legislative session.

 

CA Penal Code Section 1424.5 was added to law.

“(a) (1) Upon receiving information that a prosecuting attorney may have deliberately and intentionally withheld relevant or material exculpatory evidence or information in violation of law, a court may make a finding, supported by clear and convincing evidence, that a violation occurred. If the court finds such a violation, the court shall inform the State Bar of California of that violation if the prosecuting attorney acted in bad faith and the impact of the withholding contributed to a guilty verdict, guilty or nolo contendere plea, or, if identified before conclusion of trial, seriously limited the ability of a defendant to present a defense.

“(2) A court may hold a hearing to consider whether a violation occurred pursuant to paragraph (1).

“(b) (1) If a court finds, pursuant to subdivision (a), that a violation occurred in bad faith, the court may disqualify an individual prosecuting attorney from a case.

“(2) Upon a determination by a court to disqualify an individual prosecuting attorney pursuant to paragraph (1), the defendant or his or her counsel may file and serve a notice of a motion pursuant to Section 1424 to disqualify the prosecuting attorney’s office if there is sufficient evidence that other employees of the prosecuting attorney’s office knowingly and in bad faith participated in or sanctioned the intentional withholding of the relevant or material exculpatory evidence or information and that withholding is part of a pattern and practice of violations.

“(c) This section does not limit the authority or discretion of, or any requirement placed upon, the court or other individuals to make reports to the State Bar of California regarding the same conduct, or otherwise limit other available legal authority, requirements, remedies, or actions.”

In a related provision,  Business & Professions Code section 6068.7(a)(5), providing:

“(5) A violation described in paragraph (1) of subdivision (a) of Section 1424.5 of the Penal Code by a prosecuting attorney, if the court finds that the prosecuting attorney acted in bad faith and the impact of the violation contributed to a guilty verdict, guilty or nolo contendere plea, or, if identified before conclusion of trial, seriously limited the ability of a defendant to present a defense.”

These provisions add serious consequences to the withholding by prosecutors of relevant or material exculpatory evidence or information in any criminal case.

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